Transportation and transit options in Atlanta and Fulton County are being reimagined in ways that create dynamic spaces that are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists on the streets while at the same time transforming the city’s urban core.
Projects like The Stitch in downtown, the park over Georgia 400 in Buckhead, dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian plazas in Midtown and a host of other transportation improvement plans represent a radical overhaul of how people will soon not only get around town, but also how they live, work and play in the ATL.
“We’re at kind of a tipping point with projects in Atlanta, particularly downtown Atlanta,” says A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. “The Stitch is a long-term project, the BeltLine continues to expand and the Gulch is poised to be sold for the first time in 100 years. There are a lot of big infrastructure projects in play.”
This spring, the city of Atlanta completed the single-largest remaining land acquisition for the BeltLine. The BeltLine was previously an abandoned and under-used railroad corridor that encircled the city’s core. During the past decade, portions of this 22-mile loop have been transformed into pedestrian- and bike-friendly trails replacing the rail lines and connecting to parks and transit.
The recently acquired railroad corridor was needed to complete the BeltLine’s Southside Trail, which connects the Eastside and Westside trails for a total of approximately 11 contiguous miles. The $26-million purchase was funded by Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) revenues and represents more than four miles and 63 acres of the BeltLine’s planned trail loop.
“The Southside Trail will connect the east side of the Atlanta BeltLine to the west side for the first time in its history – and that changes everything,” says Brian P. McGowan, BeltLine president and CEO in a press release. “This inactive rail corridor that once divided neighborhoods can now be used to create jobs, transit and affordable housing options for communities south of downtown.”
Reconnecting divided neighborhoods and spurring downtown development is the exact same idea behind The Stitch. CAP is halfway through the second phase of a development study for The Stitch, a $200-million to $300-million proposal to cover Interstate 75/85 with greenspace and private development.
The Stitch would cap the Downtown Connector by building a tunnel over the interstate from the Spring Street flyover southeast to the Piedmont Avenue Bridge, turning the space above it into 14 acres of economic development opportunity.
“When the highway came through in the ’50s, it physically, spiritually and psychologically divided Downtown and Midtown,” Robinson says. “We believe that by building a park essentially over the highway, we will stimulate economic development along the park, and the development of those parcels around the park will pay for the construction of the park over time.”
Robinson says the first phase of construction for The Stitch could be completed within five years.
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